How City Hall Helps Keep Kuala Lumpur Healthy

DBKL officials say stress and obesity are the biggest health issues in KL, highlighting City Hall’s work in public health, environmental health, and addressing NCDs by promoting physical activity through public parks, public transport, and cycling lanes.

LONDON, March 30 – Although health care is under federal jurisdiction under the Health Ministry, local and city councils play a large, though understated, role in improving urban health.

Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) officials say that City Hall is responsible for not just public health and environmental health, but also works on preventing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by encouraging physical activity. 

In a joint interview with CodeBlue in London, the United Kingdom, last March 16 at the sidelines of the Partnership for Healthy Cities Summit, DBKL health and environment department senior deputy director Dr Nor Halizam Ismail and DBKL executive director (planning) Sulaiman Mohamed talked about City Hall’s scope of work in public health and addressing the social determinants of health.

Dr Nor Halizam, a public health physician, said DBKL’s health and environment department has three units: public health, environmental health, and the environment.

Public health, she said, relates to vector and pest control, as well as medical and community health. 

DBKL also collects population data from bottom 40 per cent (B40) households on nutrition and does prevention and control work, together with the Ministry of Health (MOH), of infectious diseases like dengue and leptospirosis.

“Issues that involve residents – it’s usually with DBKL. Dengue requires collaboration between residents and the health side,” she said.

On environmental health, Dr Nor Halizam said DBKL ensures that restaurant workers are vaccinated against typhoid, besides ensuring food hygiene and monitoring maintenance of grease traps.

As for tobacco control, the DBKL official said City Hall has expanded gazetted smoke-free areas.

“In Malaysia, only KL has gazetted covered walkways as smoke-free zones,” she said. 

Dr Nor Halizam pointed out that besides enforcing smoke-free rules on patrons at restaurants, City Hall goes a step further by prohibiting smoking for food handlers and wait staff in Kuala Lumpur.

Stress and Obesity Biggest Health Issues in KL

Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) executive director (planning) Sulaiman Mohamed speaks to CodeBlue in an interview at the sidelines of the Partnership for Healthy Cities Summit in London, the United Kingdom, on March 16, 2023. Picture by Boo Su-Lyn.

Dr Nor Halizam said stress and obesity are the biggest health issues in the capital city, as she highlighted DBKL initiatives to curb chronic conditions and improve mental health like car-free Sundays, public parks, and cycling lanes.

“Obesity – we don’t have the power to tell people not to eat, but we can only provide services, like cycling lanes, parks, for an active lifestyle,” she said.

There are 27 public parks in the city, excluding children’s playgrounds, with 10.2 sq metres of open area per person, said DBKL executive director (planning) Sulaiman.

Sulaiman also said all roads in Kuala Lumpur are provided with pedestrian walkways.

“We have 18km of walkways,” he said. “If you see some of the monorail stations in Sultan Ismail, you can walk up to Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kampung Baru.”

DBKL has also gazetted a few bus lanes in Jalan Raja Laut and Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, “but our motorists still abuse the bus lane,” Sulaiman said.

There are about 14km of cycling lanes in the city. Cycling and bus lanes are also provided for last-mile public transport.

“For the first mile, we have from the residents area to the station – that we provide bicycle lanes. Now we are planning a bicycle lane from Wangsa Maju to KL, and Pusat Bandar Damansara to KL also,” Sulaiman said.

“For Wangsa Maju to the city centre, we’re only left with a missing link somewhere in Pulapol because Pulapol is a restricted area, so we have to manoeuvre somewhere else. Otherwise, all along the river, we can reach the city centre. From Damansara to the city centre, we’re still working on that [cycling lane].”

Sulaiman also said that DBKL’s free bus service GoKL – with a fleet of 62 buses, all electric automated – services 12 routes: four for the last-mile in the city centre and eight for the first-mile.

Contrary to public perception that only foreign workers utilise GoKL, Sulaiman said locals comprise 80 per cent of GoKL riders for the first-mile and 60 per cent for the last-mile.

He explained that as per the Traffic Master Plan 2040 launched last year, DBKL is now focusing on providing missing links between highways to prevent incoming traffic into the city centre.

“So this is what we’re going to do for KL to provide better connectivity in transportation and also road networks.”

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